Almost 14,000 plants, seeds and growing kits are being distributed during lockdown as part of a city-wide campaign to encourage people to grow their own vegetables.
A team of 70 volunteers across 16 projects will reach over 3,000 households with seeds or plants, with more than 100 people joining online growing classes.
The coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated food insecurity and disrupted normal food and growing supply chains. In response, projects which help more people to grow their own food and increase the amount of food grown locally are collaborating to reach a greater number of people in need.
Food Cardiff has been running a successful local Veg Cities campaign with dozens of pledges from organisations serving and growing more vegetables since 2018. It has worked in partnership with Edible Cardiff, which supports a network of local small scale farmers, allotments and community gardens, Social Farms & Gardens Wales and Food for Life Get Togethers to coordinate a rapid response to specific challenges arising from lockdown.
Social Farms & Gardens Wales launched #GrowingHope to distribute 1,000 growing kits in Cardiff Council’s food parcels, food bank parcels and to other community groups. The kits include everything people need to grow salads and herbs on their windowsills. Similarly, Grow Cardiff has been working with schools which are open for the children of key workers to help them grow vegetables and sunflowers as well as distributing grow bags and seeds to families at home under its Sow Some Sunshine and Grow Well projects.
Cardiff Salad Garden has been growing seedlings for volunteers who have been unable to visit the garden. In collaboration with Greening and Growing in Riverside to recruit 100 volunteers to grow veg and herbs, supported by growing lessons over Zoom. Children’s seed kits are being distributed with the 50 food parcels that go out to self-isolating families from South Riverside’s Pantry.
Another growing community at Global Gardens allotments have overcome the restrictions on visitors by inviting people to share recipes online – and rewarding the best contributors with a share of their crops, recipes and seeds.
Green Squirrel has been working with Cardiff Council’s Bute Park plant nursery to grow vegetable and herb seedlings to be distributed free to local residents, care homes and community groups, and supporting them with online resources from their ‘Stay Home, Grow Your Own’ campaign.
In the east of the city, EggSeeds has been working with a cluster of five GP surgeries to distribute 500 plants and 400 packets of seeds. They have helped to find homes for 1,000 more plants from the other Cardiff growing projects and also create weekly YouTube videos to teach people how to grow and use produce at home.
Several of the projects have been supported with funding from Food for Life Get Togethers.
Sustainable Food City coordinator, Pearl Costello said:
“By using existing capacity, networks and pooling resources, we have ensured that an element of ‘grow your own’ was included in Cardiff’s emergency food response. Bringing partners and projects together avoided duplication of efforts and made everything part of a bigger movement.
“However big or small their crop may be, it’s inspiring to think about the many thousands of people in the city who will now be growing their own food at home at a time when the food system nationally is under such pressure. We hope this will have formed habits which will last for years to come – and we’ve been encouraged by many people sharing their efforts online with #GoodFoodCardiff and #CardiffGrowingTogether.
“The food partnership is now considering what should be taken forward in the long term to ensure the interest in growing your own food is sustained,” she said.
Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Michael Michael, said:
“Cities are defined by the quality, availability and affordability of their food. It’s a fundamental issue for all of us and Covid-19 has really highlighted that fact. The response to the crisis from organisations and individuals across the city has been fantastic and this renewed interest in growing your own food will hopefully give us a solid platform to build upon as we work with our Food Cardiff partners to develop our food growing plan for the city.”
This growing work builds on the work of the Covid-19Food Response Task Group in the city which brings together Food Cardiff, Cardiff Council, Cardiff & Vale University Health Board Dietetics, Cardiff Foodbank, Fareshare Cymru and Cardiff Third Sector Council.